12 Million Americans Drove While High in 2018, 21 Million Drove Drunk

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and data derived from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 12 million drivers over the age of 16 admitted to driving stoned in 2018. In the same year, close to 21 million said they drove drunk.

The report, published in Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report, mentions “Driving under the influence of marijuana was defined as an affirmative response to the question ‘During the past 12 months, have you driven a vehicle while you were under the influence of marijuana?’”

According to the report, “The prevalences of driving under the influence of marijuana and driving under the influence of illicit drugs other than marijuana were higher among males (6.2%, 1.3%, respectively) than among females (3.2%, 0.5%, respectively). The prevalence of driving under the influence of marijuana was highest among non-Hispanic multiracial persons (9.2%). The prevalence of driving under the influence of marijuana ranged from 0.6% among persons aged ≥65 years to 12.4% among persons aged 21–25 years; the second highest prevalence (9.2%) was reported among persons aged 16–20 years. The highest reported prevalences of driving under the influence of illegal drugs other than marijuana were among persons aged 21–25 years (1.9%) and 26–34 years (1.9%).”

It is also worth noting that the highest prevalence of drug use was in the age groups 21-25 years of age with the second highest prevalence of drug use was noted in the age group 16-20 years old.

What’s more, according to the report, the numbers for those claiming to have driven under the influence of marijuana is still significantly lower than that of those who claim to have driven drunk.

These numbers are based on self-reported responses from the participants. Therefore, the accuracy and scope of the information is limited to the truthfulness and completeness of the responses. The report acknowledges this in its findings. 

Nonetheless, numbers such as these worry people like Helen Witty, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who said, “Driving under the influence of marijuana is a huge concern, and it’s a huge public health problem that we have such young people using marijuana… It’s natural, they say. But so is snake venom. Natural doesn’t mean that it’s good for you.”

The report by the CDC concludes their discussion by stating, “Impaired driving is a serious public health concern that needs to be addressed to safeguard the health and safety of all who use the road, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Collaboration among public health, transportation safety, law enforcement, and federal and state officials is needed for the development, evaluation, and further implementation of strategies to prevent alcohol-, drug-, and polysubstance-impaired driving. In addition, standardized testing for alcohol and drugs among impaired drivers and drivers involved in fatal crashes could advance understanding of drug- and polysubstance-impaired driving and assist states and communities with targeted prevention efforts.”              

I wonder, however, how many of the 12 million who claim to have used marijuana before driving can actually be considered impaired? More importantly, how do we inform the public about understanding impairment from the use of marijuana if we still don’t have a valid method of determining it?

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